A Novelist, a Poet, a Son, and a Certain Kind of Ambiguous Jew

July 21 2021

Reminiscing about his godfather, the American poet and publisher Stanley Moss—who has just completed a new volume of verse—the singer and essayist Mark Glanville comes to reminisce about his own father, and his ambiguous relationship to Judaism:

Brian Glanville, an emerging London novelist, first met Stanley Moss, a budding New York poet, in Rome in the early 1950s. Dad had not gone to university, and his friendships made in Italy during that time were like those others make at college, influential and enduring.

Stanley’s first collection, The Wrong Angel, wasn’t published until 1966, though it contains poems dating back to 1949. By then my father had already published nine novels, some relating to his time in Italy, others to Jewish family life. One, The Bankrupts, caused a furor, leading to a highly publicized libel suit against the actor David Kossoff, who had accused him of writing an anti-Semitic handbook. The Bankrupts is, in fact, an unremittingly negative portrait of a materialistic north London Jewish family that has forsaken religion and culture, but my father was no self-hating Jew. He was more of a latter-day Moses striking down idolaters. He won the action.

His relationship to Judaism is, however, complex. My grandfather, Selick Goldberg, became James Arthur Glanville and sent him to Charterhouse, an English public school where anti-Semites abounded. Anti-Semitism, perhaps unsurprisingly, defined my father’s sense of his Jewishness, a battle to be constantly fought, sometimes in the street, more often in discussions around the dinner table. My parents held no seders, nor did they observe High Holy Days. I had no bris, no bar mitzvah either. Sigmund Freud, not ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu, was their god, and he had decreed that circumcision would lead to a castration complex.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Assimilation, British Jewry, Jewish literature, Poetry, Sigmund Freud

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship